Chemo Round Two, Session Three

Today’s twist — induced anemia — my red blood cell count was too low.  To build that back up, at the end of chemo treatment I was given a shot of Aranesp (Darbepoetin alfa, also called erythropoeitin). This one has a side effect of bone pain so I’ll be on the lookout in the next couple days for that. Hopefully it won’t be much worse than a hard workout with weights at the gym. I’ve busted down and regrown more bone muscle and tendon than one person has a right to.

Otherwise, the chemo was near perfect a treatment.The new chairs are better ergomically designed than the Lazy Boys IMHO. Their footprint allows for better traffic flow as well, so it’s not so crowded-feeling.

My weeks are running with blood tests on Monday, Tuesday Chemo, Wed.  and Thurs holding my own, and Friday and Saturday a slow trip into nausea land. By Sunday and Monday I don’t even want to eat. However, I force myself, and take the nausea meds I have. Weight held pretty well from last week at 141, down from 145. I’m good with it, I’m now counting calories on pencil and paper.

I had a baking epiphany this week as well.

I found my Muffin Book. It’s a great book full of both sweet and savory muffin mixes, as well as some quick breads and flat cakes. I made apricot prune muffins, and for my liquid instead of milk I used Instant Breakfast, very high in calories. A half-cup of that goes a long way. At 350 for 15 to 20 minutes the muffins baked well. The overall recipe came out not so sweet (a good thing), and very rich thanks to the Instant Breakfast. These muffins are high in fiber as well (substituted granola for streusel) and the muffins went very well with morning tea (Orange Spice). I consider this great progress because a few weeks ago I couldn’t stand the taste of a sweet donut or bread. This has shifted now and I can eat the more creamy muffin or donut.

Skipping subjects (chemo brain allows me to do that without being given either a reality check card or a IQ test), the meeting with the doc and our Nurse Prac (hereby abbreviated as NP) went well. I had what I felt was positive observations to report: the tumor seems to be not only shrinking but changing can actually now feel the clavicle on that side, and see where the veins are shrinking (these were feeder veins created by the body to deal with the tumor). The tumor was really so big it was hard to tell its shape from the rest of the chest wall and muscle but it’s getting so you can see the differences now. It’s all very soft in comparison to what it was, and the inflammed breast has totally calmed down, in fact, it pretty much looks like the other breast now save for a difference in nipple colour. The shapes are really symmetric too, that’s a lifetime first. Doc tested the right lung, it’s still pretty weak in terms of drawing air so the pleural effusion must still be there, and I’ve decided I’m going to do some more breathing exercises and try to walk more. He says after the cancer is killed it will be 6 to 8 weeks before the effusion will drain off. The Advair is working incredibly well to maximize what’s there, and NP Deb says to take the full two doses every day, the effect apparently is a cumulative one. Being able to breathe is very important. I’m uncomfortable when I can’t breath — in fact it’s one of the few things that will send me into an all out panic (too many memories of nearly croaking as a kid as parents struggled with home remedies for my asthma and bronchitis). With the drugs available nowadays, there is no reason for this kind of stress.

You can tell I’m a true engineer: it’s whatever works, within reason. I’m not adverse to trying alternative items, like Cordyceps caps, but I’d rather work with something I’ve already successfully used first. I’m also getting a slew of asparagus emails, containing up to FOUR (count em) case studies of people mystically saved from cancer by consuming asparagus drinks every day. While I can appreciate information like this, it’s hard to describe the difference in mental terms between the science of oncology and the food fantasy.  A throwdown this ain’t.

I really have to put in a few words here about Deb, our hardworking NP. She is seriously good at what she does and has a great mind for detail. So why do I get the feeling she’s almost in continuous chronic pain? Too many years of me working in my clinic I guess. With her I pull it off as pain in the mid to low back, the goosey kind that flares with exertion. I admire her for working through it all. If my own clinic were open she’d be a good candidate for some gentle lomi type therapeutics. Before I got sick I was moving in the area of lymphatic massage and the more gentle work for sicker people. After years of working neuromuscular and sports therapy, I myself felt the need to do more pallative treatments on clients instead of the harsh but eminently effective trigger point therapy and structural reintegration.

I’m too sick, of course, to work now, but should I get well eventually, at least well enough to do any work, I’d consider reopening for lymphatic massage. This I believe would do the best good for the greatest number.

My background as an osteopath is huge though I hold no med licenses now, and I am a good acupuncturist. I have a lot of training, and could see myself getting more — there are some great classes out there now on lymphatic massage, and the more I think about it, the more I realize it might complement chemotherapy very well. It would not compete with what the chemo is trying to do, if anything, it should aid it by improving signal pathways in the nervous system through better behaving lymphatics.  Also, this technique would amp up parasympathics, and promote relaxation for the client. Again, drugs work better when the body isn’t freaking (not to mention the person).

I’ll have to give the matter some serious thought. It’ll be a while before I can do a half-hour or an hour session on someone, but it’ something to plan for.

Meanwhile, I’m just trying to reach my own zero-sum game with this interesting cancer I have. I’m going on wits-sharpening protocol starting tomorrow and will go back to working out some problems in diffy q and calculus for starters. It does one no good being this smart if all I can do is watch it degenerate. Cancer requires a different style of fighting, one that uses mental and emotional weapons to prevent meltdowns. It’s melting down the body, and the psychology of the disease melts down the mind and emotions.  Strength here involves honest looks in the daily mirror and strong commitment to the best plan, with ability to roll with punches should the plans have to change. It’s not an exact science by a longshot.

I have to render accolades to both the oncologist and NP Deb — they leave no stone unturned looking for answers, and although they may not find all the questions, do not hide behind the Ultimate Answer of “42” where their patients are concerned. That kind of dedication is worth this Hitchhiker’s ride on their UFO.


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